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PC evolution: Digital home marks the way

Posted: 18 Jul 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pc? 3c? computers? consumer electronics? communications?

While the PC has been the primary driver for the semiconductor business in the last two decades, industry observers almost unanimously agree that the PC era has passed. They dub the post-PC era as the digital consumer age.

What we see now is a broad array of digital devices driving the electronics industry. Their growth figures are startling, reaching up to 45 percent a year. And if we look closely at this new class of digital den, what we find is a 3C recipe clipped to it.

The 3Ccomputers, consumer electronics and communicationsaccounted for 65.8 percent of revenues of the electronics industry in mainland China in 2004, according to a report titled "China Industry Outlook: Computer Products" by eMedia Asia, the publisher of EE TimesAsia.

Surprisingly, the 2004 growth figures related to the computing segment are highest at 38 percent compared to 28.3 percent for communications and 24 percent for consumer electronics. So is the PC still top gun or is it merely a blessing of convergence (a notion that up until now many saw as a form of tech utopia)?

Convergence is for real and the above data from the world's most dynamic electronics market is testament to the virtues of a new computing phenomenon that many are calling the "consumer PC." Moreover, the arrival of 64bit architecture and dual-core processors will further boost features that go beyond compute-intensive tasks.

The PC is the platform of choice for Internet access and is a place that offers greater flexibility to acquire, store and manipulate digital media. The consumer PCor living-room PC, as some would like to call it, is designed for watching and recording TV as well as digital video and music downloaded from the Web.

The PC and its peripherals will inevitably become part of the digital-home ecosystem and will ensure the PC's position as a significant player in the electronics marketplace. Most of the growth, however, will come from the notebook sector, thanks to the iconic success of Wi-Fi networks. Likewise, the perceived takeoff of WiMAX will bring new momentum to the notebook PC segment just the way Wi-Fi gave it new life a few years ago.

The figures outlined in the report simply validate this trend. In 2004, mainland China produced 17.6 million desktop PCs and 27.5 million notebook computers, achieving annual growths of 16 percent and 91.6 percent, respectively. The report projects that the notebook computer share in the computing segment will continue to rise.

For some, the clamor for convergence may seem like dij` vu, since we have heard a somewhat similar story during the roaring 1990s. What has changed now is that PCs have far greater storage capacity and are hooked to fatter bandwidth pipes. And new, higher-bandwidth wireless conduits, such as 802.11n and UWB, are steadily making their way into the networking world.

The imminent arrival of the digital home and new wireless technologies using notebook computers as clients would maintain PC's relevance in the near future. Who knows what comes next?

- Majeed Ahmad

Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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